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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“No More Pay Cuts!”

On September 2, the Classified Staff Union, the Professional Staff Union, and the Faculty Staff Union representing about 1,000 UMass Boston on-campus employees waged an awareness campaign championed by the mantra “No More Pay Cuts!”, demanding a cost of living wage increase in their contracts.

Affected union members took to the halls of UMass after a 16 month contract negotiations process failed, leaving all three unions with expired contracts as of June 30 of this year. The 1,000 employees currently in contract limbo comprise a majority of employees on campus: The Classified Staff Union represents the clerical and maintenance staff of the university, the Professional Staff Union consists of mid-level administrators, such as university advising and admissions staff, and the Faculty Staff Union represents the university’s professors and librarians.

The expired June 30 contract was a year long contract that saw all three unions accept a cost-of-living wage increase of 3.5% over the prior contract. But with an even greater incline in the cost-of-living this year, union leaders and members remained adamant that the new contract include a cost-of-living increase no less than 4%. “Otherwise, the new contract will fail to keep pace with the rising cost of food, gas, and expenses,” said Thomas Goodkind, President of the Professional Staff Union. “The UMB employees are experiencing the same financial problems as the UMB student body.” Goodkind said that if the unions were to agree on any pay increase below 4%, they would be accepting a pay cut, as any contract containing a wage increase of less than 4% is not keeping pace with the rate of inflation, the out of control gas prices, increasing health insurance premiums, and rising food prices. Confirming reports published in an August 26 issue of the Boston Globe that stated three University of Massachusetts campuses were undergoing contract bargaining, Goodkind added Amherst and Dartmouth to the list. The expired contracts extend across the UMass system and involve 11 unions, all of which are currently working without contract. The final issuance, signatory, and veto power for any contract lies in the hands of the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. But according to Goodkind, the Patrick administration has not proposed any financial figures during its participation in the negotiations, leaving unions guessing what sort of numbers the government considers fair financial figures and waiting for some kind of offer with which to bargain. “We don’t wish for negotiations to be held in bad faith, the [Deval Patrick] administration needs to issue financial parameters,” Goodkind said. Little progress was made during a meeting between representatives of the three UMB unions and Leslie A. Kirwan, the Secretary of Administration and Finance in the Patrick administration. “Secretary Kirwan told our negotiators it is unlikely the unions will see a cost of living increase competitive with real increase in cost of living,” Goodkind said. The meeting took place shortly after the passing and signing of the Massachusetts’ state budget for Fiscal year 2009.

Another point of consternation is that the new fiscal budget includes raises of 4.1 percent state college presidents, with the potential for an additional 3 percent merit bump; and up to a 4 percent merit increase for nonunion administrators approved by the higher education board. If contract negotiations continue their protracted course, job security and livable wage concerns for on-campus employees will continue to grow. And much like the contract that expired in June, some familiar faces on campus may just disappear.